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Thomas Devine inspects 6-foot-tall soybean plant.: Link to photo information
Geneticist Thomas Devine is currently breeding sweeter edamame soybeans for organic farmers. Here, he inspects an earlier release, Moon Cake, the first giant edamame. Click the image for more information about it.

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Veggie Soybeans About to Get Even Sweeter

By Don Comis
December 10, 2007

Sweeter edamame soybean varieties for organic farmers are being developed by Virginia State University (VSU) and Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists.

Tadesse Mebrahtu, a plant breeder with VSU in Petersburg, Va., is developing new varieties of this large-green vegetable soybean in cooperation with Thomas E. Devine, a geneticist with the ARS Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory, Beltsville, Md.

Mebrahtu and Devine have found five types of vegetable soybeans with higher-than-usual levels of sugar. Mebrahtu and his VSU colleagues do the hybridization and chemical analyses for sucrose and total sugar content.

These five types serve as the parent lines for new lines of edamame.

Edamame have large beans that are harvested when still green. They are boiled and slipped out of their pods and added to everything from salads to succotash, including mixed and stir-fried vegetables, soups, and casseroles. They are an increasingly popular health food in this country and standard fare in Asian countries.

On Devine's part, the search for sweeter edamame varieties for organic farmers stemmed from his more than two decades of breeding giant soybean plants for livestock forage.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.